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Words: Matt Jardine

A friend of mine has just landed a fantastic new job. He hates it. The reason: the new responsibilities are affecting his Jiu Jitsu training. It is a common theme of complaint heard in academy changing rooms across the land- the ‘time-money trap’: the trading of precious time in return for money, wages or commissions.

Students of Jiu Jitsu are, arguably, some of the most passionate exponents of their sport and if they could do it twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, they likely would. While most have resigned themselves to the shackles of the time-money trap, others have refused such a fate and instead chosen to make Jiu Jitsu their whole lives. For these rare few, they are literally ‘living the dream’.

Triage to Triangles

Dr. Marc Barton has been involved in emergency medicine for over fourteen years; he is also a brown belt under Nic Gregoriades and his Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood.

Whist an admirer of the concept of the NHS, as a front line doctor he has witnessed and suffered the erosion that the institution has succumbed to over recent years. Increasingly long hours, red tape and unrealistic performance targets have done little to help motivate him to continue into the future; another reason: his love of Jiu Jitsu.

“I’ve always done Martial Arts,” says Dr. Marc, “even when I was a Doctor, I was more interested in Martial Arts than in Medicine, deep in my soul.

“I wanted to live that lifestyle, I was jealous of the guys who were managing to make Martial Arts their life and living and I was sick of just having to fit in training, here and there, between my long hours of medical work.”

With three young children and a lifestyle that had previously been supported by the income level that only an experienced Doctor can demand, the decision to make a living training and teaching Jiu Jitsu was indeed a brave one.

“What made me move from a moderately well paid job to losing money teaching?” he laughs, “good question!” but it was a decision he took never-the-less. Marc opened a ‘pop-up’ branch of the Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood in Kingston upon Thames.  Renting a sports hall from a local school, initially the intention was to use it for extra training with his Jiu Jitsu friends. As providence waved her hand though, momentum and word of mouth grew until attendance numbers suggested that a ‘class’ was being born.

From classes with just him in attendance and having to fund the hall fees from his own pocket, Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood has evolved a burgeoning children’s programme, an adult programme that trains four times a week, beginners courses with demand so high that names fill a waiting list and a competition team that, although not filled with world champions, is filled with competitors who love what they do.

Whilst Dr. Marc still has some way to go before he and his pop-up Jiu Jitsu club can fully become his primary income- an online medical exam resource helps shore the difference in the mean-time- it is well on its way and, what’s more, he is an example of someone daring to live the dream.

An Aussie, a Pole and a Jiu Jitsu guy walked into a room…

Although sounding like the start of something hilarious, when three men teamed up with the shared goal of living the dream they were, and are, not joking.

Friends since childhood, Jacek Toczydlowski and Tomasz Rydzewski grew up in Poland learning Martial Arts at the same academy. The seeds of ‘living the dream’ were set early on when Tomasz was still a blue belt (now a black belt under Roger Gracie) and Jacek was newly embarking on a career in professional MMA.

“We loved training, we loved the people and the camaraderie but we just didn’t like how the academy was run,” says Tomasz of their previous experience in Poland, “ and we thought {Jack and I} how awesome it would be to, one day, have our own academy- an academy that was run properly.”

Although endowed with plenty of both brains and brawn (Jacek a ferocious striker and Tomasz a graduate in computer science and mathematics), if they were to live their dream from within the walls of an actual bricks and mortar academy, they would need a good dose of business nous as well as money.

Enter Australian business specialist, Trent Scanlen. As a consultant to corporate giants, Scanlen has had to travel the far corners of the globe.

“Wherever I’ve travelled, both for work and independently, I’ve always wanted to work out” Trent explains. “I’d go to a weights gym, a Jiu Jitsu academy or a striking class just to stay in shape.”

Having visited such academies as Renzo Gracie’s in New York, Tri Star in Montreal,  and both Randy Couture’s and Wanderlei Silva’s gyms in Las Vegas, Scanlen, with his keen eye for business, absorbed the best from each whilst working on what he would hypothetically improve if the academy was his own.

As a student of both Tomasz and Jacek, he was aware of their talents and desire to open an academy and it would not be long before all three would commit to a partnership that would make the dream a reality.

In August 2015, Richmond Fitness Club opened its doors for business. With a comprehensive programme of Martial Arts and fitness for all ages and standards, it is a concrete example of the heights can be reached by daring to reach for them.

The ‘Matsurfer’

Our last example is the epitome of the ‘living the dream’ concept. He is none other than Jiu Jitsu Styles very own OIi Geddes. After University (another computer scientist!) Oli decided upon a gap year.

Accustomed to the frugal life of a student, it wasn’t hard for him to live with just his basic needs met whilst the rest of his time could be dedicated to training, competing and teaching.

“I just thought I’d try it and see how it went,” he told me in a Surrey coffee shop before jetting off to the U.S to compete, and referee, in the IBJJF World Masters.

Ten years on, he is still living the dream. A combination of sponsorship, seminars, private lessons, writing fees, refereeing, prize and appearance fees have been added to his means of ‘meeting his needs’ as his life on the road has matured.

“ I have, pretty much, no overheads,” he explains, “friends and students put me up on their sofa or floor whilst I’m in town until it’s time to move on”. This style of living is shared by his friend Christian Graugart (The BJJ Globetrotter) who has even started an online “couchsurfing style service that matches BJJ travelers and hosts from around the world” in order to help others trying to live the life he and Oli are enjoying.

Geddes clearly loves what he does. Living a nomadic Jiu Jitsu lifestyle, he is as close to living ‘off grid’ as you can get and it shows in his easy manner, his passionate teaching style and his high level of Jiu Jitsu.

When asked how long he planned to keep living this way he said “I’m happy doing what I’m doing. If someone offered me a good basic wage- nothing fancy-with accommodation thrown in, then, I may sit tight and settle”

I heard him say it. And I don’t believe a word of it. Who in their right mind would give up living the dream?

How to live the dream

I couldn’t let these brave hearts get away without first giving us their advice for living the life of our dreams. Here it is so that, if you desire, you may do the same:

Just do it-  For all its faults, sporting behemoth Nike  came up with a tag line that was so profound, it could be argued, that it was the single most important reason for its huge success; that tag line, of course: ‘Just do it’. Magic is encapsulated in these three words; lesson one in living the life of your dreams is that you must choose to do so. Dare to be brave and be the architect of your life. Oli,  Dr. Marc, Trent, Jacek and Tomasz have all taken this vital first step

2. ‘How do you eat an Elephant?’- As the old school yard joke goes, ‘One mouth full at a time.’ Any big task- and living the life of your dreams is right up there- needs to be broken down into small achievable goals- we all know this. Being overwhelmed is often the biggest killer of dreams.

When you approach mammoth tasks, one step at a time, each small success leads to the belief and understanding that we really are capable of shaping our own realities and managing great ambition.

3. Passion to pounds- the most beguiling characteristic of all our ‘Dream livers’ is their deep passion for what they do. Their attention is firmly on what they love- Jiu Jitsu in all myriad form. Most people abort ideas of making their passion their living in the fear that it will not ‘pay the bills’. But, strangely, life seems to have a way of consistently awarding the passionate. Paradoxically, at the moment that you remove your attention from that which you fear –in this case lack of money- and turn it instead onto that which you are passionate-all your needs are met.

I am aware that some of these tips sound a little esoteric and ‘hippy’-I hear you- but, please, trust me on this. They have worked for Oli, Trent, Dr. Marc, Tomasz, Jacek and countless others unnamed and they will, given the chance, work for you too.

What have you got to lose after all? Oh yes, that’s right; just the life of your dreams.

Matt Jardine is a full time teacher of the Martial Arts, writer and author. He is an avid exponent of ‘living the life of your dreams’ and has even encouraged his wife to do the same (which he now sort of regrets as he is picking up the tab for her ‘gap year’).

August 25, 2019 — Jiu Jitsu Style